Archive for the ‘Self Improvement’ Category

Grilled veggie wrap

Tonight’s dinner. Start with whatever veggies you have on hand. In this case, the rest of an onion, a pepper and eggplant (also known as aubergine—I’ve learned to love them) from my garden, and tomatoes from a coworker’s garden since mine aren’t quite ripe yet. You will also need a whole wheat burrito wrap, some hot sauce, and I suggest taco seasoning from Spice Hound.


Chop them all up and toss them in some olive oil over medium high heat until they brown. I’m still scared of hot oil, but I’m learning to deal with it. Start with the onion, add the eggplant, then the pepper towards the end. This is also good with tofu, zucchini and squash. Some people, not me, might like mushrooms.


Once browned, sprinkle the taco seasoning. While this is happening, if you have a glass cooktop, place a piece of tin foil over a burner, turn it on really low, and put the burrito wrap on it to warm it up.

Assemble the burrito wrap with the chopped tomatoes and hot sauce. You can also add shredded cheese, but I’m trying to keep the calories down.



Enjoy while watching an episode of Breaking Bad.

The August 5 (and a half) and Mission Peak

The August 5 lbs challenge is officially over. The tally this morning was 5.6 lbs! I didn’t reach my stretch goal of 7, but at least I comfortably made the 5! Woot!

With one virtual sugar bag less than I was carrying around with me a month ago, l’avocat suggested we hike Mission Peak this morning. I was slow, but eventually made it to the top. Three miles of steep up hill, then back down. I’m now safely laying on a towel in the backyard while Perl runs around. Trying desperately not to fall asleep under the tree. If you can’t find me later, please come wake me and gather my dog.

Here are some photos from the way up and the top.





Halfway through the August 5!

We are halfway through the August 5 pound challenge. As of this morning, I hit the 2.5 pound mark, so I’m right on target. It is going to be a difficult next 16 days, but I believe I can do it if I set my mind to it. And so can you!

How are you all doing?

The August 5: Join Me

My diet has been stuck in a rut for a few months now. I got halfway through and then I plateaued. I haven’t been gaining, but I also haven’t been losing. I know a couple people who are stuck with me, so I’m creating this challenge.

The August 5.

In 31 days, we will each try to lose 5 pounds through exercise and making better choices eating. That is a little more than a pound a week. More fruits and veggies, fewer grains and meat, one less beer than you would normally drink. It is the last month of summer and the weather is beautiful. Let’s do this together.

Are you with me?

It isn’t my fault

For the past six years I’ve been scared. Afraid to speak out. Frightened to admit that I Love My Life.

Six years ago, as I was writing about how amazing my life is, Uncle C shot himself on his front porch. iDad told me the next morning and I flew home that night. It happened on Good Friday. I arrived Easter morning. Uncle C did not rise from the dead like Jesus Christ. I wrote A Luthier’s Poem a week later.

And since that day, I’ve been afraid to admit I’m happy. Afraid that if I say those words, the world will balance itself by taking another life. I know that isn’t how it works, but I’ve felt responsible. Like my happiness meant someone else in the world would have to be miserable to balance the scales.

It wasn’t my fault.

I tell myself that. I imagine myself lying on a green, fuzzy lounge chair and the shrink telling me to repeat the words, “It is not your fault.”

I think to myself, “No, it wasn’t your fault, it was mine. Karma.” Then I say it out loud, “It’s not my fault,” but I don’t mean it. The words are as empty as the twenty-seven calories in each of the pink Peeps I ate today. Since when are Peeps pink? Not that I’m really complaining. I licked the sugar seductively from my fingertips as I walked through the parking lot to catch the shuttle.

I envision you all watching this on your big screen televisions while sipping wine and tweeting. Felicia Day is playing my character, although she’d need to put on some weight for the role. There is ominous music playing in the background. An older gentleman appears as the antagonist.

It wasn’t my fault.

I feel guilt. It has lessened over six years, but it is still there. A little twinge when I smile at the wispy clouds on a beautiful afternoon walk. A facial tick when I laugh at the cat clawing the dog in slow motion. A slight prick as I sit on the couch eating cheese and crackers and sipping a fine wine.

I know I wasn’t my fault, just like a kid knows that it isn’t her fault when her parents divorce. Rationally, she had nothing to do with it, but irrationally it is because she refused to eat her peas one night.

When I was a kid, I would curl up in a ball in the far corner of my bed and cry until my eyes were raw because at age ten, I was not doing enough to save the whales or the starving kids in Africa. Never mind the fact that we were poor and my parents were doing their best to save me. I’ve blamed myself for things that were out of my control for a very long time.

It wasn’t my fault.

I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I do have an irrational belief in karma—that there is balance in the world. That what goes around comes around. I’m always trying to preload karma points for the next time I screw up so that I’m always in the black.

I believe in fate. I keep looking for it in my life. It used to be everywhere when I was younger. Coincidences. Happenstance. Fate appeared in relationships. Fate appeared in job interviews. Fate is comforting. I immediately accept it when I see it. And I’ve missed it over the last few years.

But fate had to always battle my belief in free will. I have it, and I’m not afraid to wield it. My free will is my wild side. The side that defies convention.

I believe that everyone has free will, but they can choose whether or not to use the Free Will card. Maybe there are a finite number of them like the Get Out Of Jail Free card in Monopoly.

Uncle C had free will. My loving my life did not create an imbalance in the world and force him to do what he did.

It wasn’t my fault.

It is okay for me to be happy.

I have an amazing life. Family and friends I love. A roof over my head. Pets who at least pretend to like me. Incredible food to eat and wine to drink. I may not be “lucky in love”, but we all know that is of my own doing. It is hard for someone to break into this.

And my saying this does not mean a family member will die tonight.

It isn’t my fault.


Now that I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year (with a few slip ups like Crabtacular, and Italy), I’m pretty comfortable with being able to find good food choices and cook for myself. The time has come to take the next step and become a vegan.

I watched Vegucated on Netflix tonight. It follows three people as they try eating vegan for six weeks. Interesting documentary. I recommend you watch it. We’ve all become so detached from where our food comes from. If anything, it might convince you to buy your meat from smaller, local farms. Or maybe just reduce your intake of meat.

For me, lunch will be easy if I eat at the caffe since I already usually go to the vegan station anyways. Cheese will be the hard part. I love cheese. But I don’t love that we make cows give birth and then take away their calves so we can use the milk. And cows produce a lot of methane which contributes to global warming. And farmland is used to grow grains for the cows instead of people. And I don’t like eating eggs anyways.

It won’t be an overnight change. I still have a few eggs, some milk, and cheese in my fridge. But when those are gone, I’ll be making dairy-free substitutions.

Suum cuique.

Valentine’s Day

For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking the SNAP Training classes through the Sunnyvale Public Safety department. The classes teach us how to set up an incident command center, do light search and rescue, perform triage and basic medical, and put out small fires. Tonight, I spent the evening with the awesome firemen at Station 2 learning how to use a fire extinguisher and when to decide to run away. It turns out, I’m good at running away from things.


Weight loss


This is the first time that I’ve seen this notice on MyFitnessPal and I don’t expect to see it often.  I’ve been using the app to track my calorie intake, and using FitBit to track my calorie output.  MyFitnessPal estimates your daily calories based on whether you work at a desk job or are more active.  Sometimes my calorie output from FitBit is much lower than the estimate.  Today, I didn’t get a lot of exercise in, and I was really good about eating.  Or not eating as the case may be.

The great news is that I’m finally seeing some success and actually sticking to my change in life style!  I’d call it a diet, but a diet always seems temporary, and I’m changing the way I eat and think about food permanently.  I’m a seventh of the way to my goal that I set the week before Thanksgiving.  It is going to take months, but it took years to get where I am, so I guess months is only fair.

It has also taken years for me to actually see any real success.  But over those years, I’ve learned a few lessons.  Here are some of them.

Shop in the outside aisles

The outside aisles are where all the fruits, veggies, and wine are.  Avoid packaged and frozen foods because they are full of sodium and extra calories.  The outside aisles are also where you will find meat, cheese, and bread.  These are good, but always in moderation.  I suppose the wine should be in moderation as well.

Become vegetarian

Becoming a vegetarian might be excessive, but meat adds a lot to your calorie and fat intake for a day.  I became a vegetarian because I never look at a cow and think, “Mmmmm, dinner!”  In addition to saving the animals and saving calories, not eating meat is another way I can help save the planet.  From a Marketplace story today about Bringing the Climate Fight to the Table,

If an American family of four ate no meat or cheese one day a week, it would be like taking a car off the road for five weeks a year, according to estimates by the Environmental Working Group.

So, if you want to lose weight, cut back on the meat and dairy.  You don’t have to give up meat like I did, but it shouldn’t be the center of every meal.  Your vegetables should be the predominate ingredient.  Fish occasionally is also good.  I do love sushi and still seem to be okay with killing fish.

Eat smaller portions

Large portion sizes are contributing to the US obesity problem. So get a to-go box when you go out and put half of your dinner in the box before starting to eat.  I don’t always do this, but I try to cut my portion in half and only eat half. Then I can save the other half for lunch the next day.  This also saves money and helps the environment by not wasting food.

Count calories before eating them

If I know I am going out for dinner, I find the menu online, decide what I’m going to eat, and put it into MyFitnessPal before eating breakfast.  That way I can still have a veggie burger, salad and two pints of Guinness when I go out to the bar because I split the remaining calories between lunch and breakfast.  No guilt when I get home from quiz night!

P.S. Guinness is actually pretty low on the calorie scale at 125 calories without feeling like you are drinking light beer.  A Budweiser is 143 calories.  Red wine is another good choice at 25 calories per ounce.  No reason we can’t still enjoy life.

Make your own rules

I have a bunch of rules.  One rule—that I broke today for a piece of pumpkin pie from Whole Foods because it smelled good—is that I don’t eat store bought sweets.  If someone makes something from scratch, then I will eat it, but I try to only eat half of the serving.

Packaged candy is definitely out.  Now I just smell it and remember that the Twinkie I ate recently was not nearly as good as I thought it was.  The pear with vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar that I had as a snack the other day was way better than any candy bar.  And lacking all the chemicals.  Part of changing how I eat is realizing I don’t want to be filling my body with chemicals.

After avoiding chips for a while, they all taste so greasy now.  Instead of french fries, I like to roast chunks of root vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips and beets.  I toss them with a little bit of olive oil to coat them very lightly, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper.  Sometimes I use fresh rosemary sprigs from my deck or other herbs that go well with them.  They are so much better than french fries!

Fight your weakness

Everyone has a weakness.  Mine is pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes.  I love me some starchy carbs!  So I have to be very careful to make sure that I don’t overeat them.  I try to only ever have one of them at any meal.  That means no garlic bread with my pasta and I have to cut back on the squash ravioli.

Brush your teeth

I never feel like eating right after I brush my teeth.  So when I don’t want to snack, I brush my teeth.  It is a great way to end a meal or to finish snacking for the night.

Go Mediterranean

One of the things that I learned from my 23andMe profile—besides being genetically predisposed for obesity and diabetes—is that my genetics say that I’ll lose weight best by following a Mediterranean Diet.  This diet, according to the Mayo Clinic,

was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

It bases every meal on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices.  The olive oil replaces butter, the herbs and spices replace salt, and meat is eaten sparingly, so this diet goes a long ways to reducing cholesterol and sodium.

I also love it because it recommends red wine.  In moderation of course.

Drink water

I’m pretty much down to two drinks: water and wine.  I will occasionally have tea or a latte, but I avoid fruit juices because of all the sugar, and soda because of the chemicals.  That and I hate the taste of diet soda.  When I get bored with straight up water, I drink carbonated water.  But I avoid the ones with added sugars or artificial sweeteners.  If you really can’t convince yourself to drink plain water, then start cutting your drinks with water.  Sometimes I’ll get an ice tea, drink some of it, add water, drink more, fill it up with more water, so that by the end, I’ve had not only the ice tea, but an equivalent amount of water.

Jesus turned water into wine, right?  So it must be okay.  And it is definitely the Mediterranean thing to do.

Eat local and in season

How will this help you lose weight?  If you are eating local and in season, you are eating fruits and vegetables.  And helping to save the environment at the same time.  You can join a CSA.  I get the small fruit and veggie box from The Fruit Guys each week.  It has taught me what is in season and the recipes have helped me learn how to cook.  I highly recommend finding something in your area.  Thanks to the random items I get in the box, I actually know what to do with eggplant, kale, collard greens, rainbow chard, and fennel.  There are lots of great places on the internet to find free recipes.  I just type in what I have for vegetables and search for a recipe for which I have the ingredients.  And that isn’t going to empty out my calorie allotment for the day.

You don’t have to join a CSA, but you should at least shop in the outside aisles at the grocery store.  And read up about when vegetables are in season.  This chart is for Northern California, but here is one for New Hampshire.  Tomatoes don’t grow in winter, so eat your root vegetables in winter, and your tomatoes in the summer when they will taste the best.  I’ve also learned a lot by going to local farmer’s markets.  It is pretty obvious when things are in season.

Give yourself a break

Every few days, I have a setback.  I eat too much or not the right things, and I don’t exercise enough. But I don’t let it get me down.  I just get back on the wagon again.  We can’t be good all the time.  The important part is to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up for it.  I went to a Christmas party Saturday night where I drank cocktails and ate cheese and bread and had a slice of carrot cake.  I just have to remember that not every day is a special day.

Since I go out a lot, eating like that all the time is not appropriate.  So I try to pick one day during the week that is my freebie day.  I don’t totally go crazy that day, but I don’t worry if I go over my calorie limit.  I’d planned ahead for the party by making Pasta with Cauliflower and Collards and Roasted Fennel from the vegetables  in my CSA box.  That with the pear with vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar came to 547 calories and was pretty filling.  And I have had leftover pasta for lunch yesterday and dinner tonight.  Lunch today was leftover ramen from dinner out last night.  I’ve still got one more meal of pasta to go.

Take it at your own pace

It has taken me years to get to this point where I’m actually succeeding.  I’ve slowly been trying to do more and more of what I’ve written about above.  I don’t always get it right, but now that I’m actually comfortable with cooking and being creative with vegetables, it is getting easier and easier to be able to stick with these changes.

So my challenge to you is to pick just one thing to change about what or how you eat.  Just one.  Do it until you feel confident about it and do it on a regular basis without thinking about it.  Then you can make another change.  Don’t try to change your habits all at once because that will just set you up for failure.  Just pick something and stick to it.  And don’t get disappointed if you have a bad couple days.  We all do.  The important part is to keep going.

And remember, you have to do this for you.  Do it because you respect your body and what you are putting inside it.  Do it because it makes you feel better.

Do it because you matter.  Because you do.  =)

Staycation List Update

I’ve been checking things off my list.  Saturday, I went to the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market and picked up spices from Spice Hound.  I was missing some basic stuff like oregano, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, taco seasoning, paprika, and crushed garlic.  While there, I also picked up some great goat and sheep’s milk cheeses from Garden Variety Cheese.

It was raining, but I was on a mission.  I headed to the Palo Alto Apple Store in search of an iPad mini to send to Sonny for my Karma Point Mission.  Why didn’t anyone tell me that minis are sold out?  Maybe someone did and I wasn’t paying attention.  I guess the media is right, no one wants them.  At least I saw the new store.  The noise situation wasn’t as bad as the media had said either.  It was loud, but not difficult to hear the conversation I was having.

Having failed at finding an iPad Mini, I retreated to my car which was sitting unlocked three blocks away.  I couldn’t lock it because it was raining.  Earlier that morning, my car alarm was going off for no apparent reason.  Turns out, my third brake light assembly is loose and according to the interwebs, there are reports that when that light isn’t sealed properly, water leaks in and sets off the alarm.  Well, it was raining and the assembly was loose and the alarm was going off, so I just didn’t lock my car until it dried out.

I checked my list of things to do, and the second item was to pick up my wine shipments.  I couldn’t go through vacation without getting some good wine!  So I called up Keanu and we headed up into the Santa Cruz hills.


First stop was Regale.  The last time Sparkles was out visiting, we met up with his German exchange student friend to go wine tasting.  I dropped my membership at Burrell School after tasting their chardonnay that smells like burnt rubber.  Next door is the newly built Regale.  Expensive, but a lovely garden and good wine, so I started a membership, but I haven’t been back since.  I had two shipments to pick up.  Luckily, it happened to be shipment day.


Second stop was my other favorite winery, Loma Prieta.  I was only behind on one shipment there since they don’t produce as much and have fewer shipments.  When we walked in the door, there was Cupcake (aka Golf Buddy K) and her crew.  They’d gone wine tasting without me!  Or I went without them.  Whatever.  Let’s let bygones be bygones.

Turns out, Saturday was a Passport Day.  And Cupcake et al had passports and were going to use them with or without us.  Keanu and I didn’t have passports, but decided to tag along.  Our next stop was Burrell School.  The chardonnay had mellowed out a little since last time, but still smelled horrendous to me.  A couple other people thought it smelled like sesame.  Whatever, I was driving, so I was dumping.


Our last stop happened to have three wineries all pouring.  They had run out of passports, so we paid $15 for all the tastings.  Pretty good deal.  The wines weren’t anything to write home about, so probably best I had to pay for the tastings.

I got home in time to walk the dog, inject the cat and make dinner.  A good evening in.  I seem to have a lot of those lately.

On Sunday, Perl wanted something out of this staycation, so we went to Fort Funston.  As always, I was worried about the weather, but it turned out to be a gorgeous day.


Monday, I went to the mall to pick up an iPad mini.  Failing that, I bought an iPod touch instead.  Then I stopped by White House | Black Market.  I know better, but I just couldn’t help myself.  I also picked up a few things from Bare Escentuals that I was low on.  I hate going to the mall, so I was hoping that going on Monday morning before kids are out on vacation would be acceptable.  I hated going there anyways.

After the mall, I needed to mail the iPad mini and iPod touch, so Perl and I went for a walk to the post office.  We stopped at the Palace Cafe and I had a late lunch.  Perl got more attention while we sat there than she has ever gotten sitting on Murphy Street.


Monday also kicked off my attempts at shedding a few pounds.  Strangely, it is easier for me to diet during vacation because I have time to think about what I am eating, log it, and get more exercise.  And I don’t go out to eat as much because I have more time to cook.

Tuesday, I finally checked playing golf off my list.  Cupcake and I stopped by Sunken Gardens for nine holes before she had to go off to work.  I thought about playing another round in the afternoon, but it was pretty windy.  Instead, Keanu and I grabbed lunch and then picked up our Turkey Trot race packets for the Thanksgiving Day run.

In the afternoon, Perl and I walked to Target and I picked up a FitBit One to help me track my progress on My Fitness Pal.  Hopefully I stick with it this time.  If so, I should be at my target weight by July.  This morning, Perl and I have already walked 2.15 miles to the grocery store and back.  I bought some yogurt so I can stop eating pancakes for breakfast.  Although I did finally find a pancake recipe that works for me—Whole Wheat Apple Pancakes.  I was too lazy to separate the eggs, and I added in some blueberries and banana too.  According to My Fitness Pal, the recipe makes pancakes for four and each serving is 297 calories with 53 g of carbs, 4 g of Fat, 11 g of Protein and 464 mg of Sodium

Today’s plan is to get some stuff done around the house.  The weather isn’t great today, although the sun is finally coming out, but I want to do some cooking for tomorrow’s dinner and get some of the stuff done on my computer that I’ve been avoiding.  Maybe I can knock off a few more items on my list!

√ Buy an iPad mini tomorrow that isn’t for me. Maybe one for me too.
√ Pick up my wine shipments in the Santa Cruz mountains
– Run the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot
– Bike the trails in Monterrey
√ Play golf
√ Take my dog to Fort Funston
– Make an Aperture book of my Italy trip
– Plan a trip around the world
√ Buy new spices from
√ Setup doctors appointments
– Minimize my junk email
– Make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving day
– Spend Thanksgiving day with my holidays family and call the rest of my family
– Have a play date for Perl with Princess K
– Investigate colors to paint my condo this summer
– Finish my Italy travelogue before I finish my staycation

Self experimentation

Whenever I drink espresso, I get a reaction where my ears and sinuses feel full and plugged. But I want to be able to drink espresso in Italy when I go. So I’m trying to figure out what I can do to stop the reaction.

Last night I read up and saw that caffeine is a diuretic, so I devised a plan to rehydrate after the effects started. Today, at lunch, I had an espresso.

12:30 Drank espresso

Sure enough, a while later

15:00 Ears and sinuses plugged up

Then I started the treatment

15:30 Drank Gatorade with 11% sodium
16:15 Ate cheese with 5% sodium

Nothing happened. I was still stuffy. I read a little more and found that recent studies say caffeine isn’t a diuretic. Suck.

New plan.

19:45 Still stuffy, crack open beer
19:55 Eat dinner—shells, eggplant, Parmesan

Sure enough,

20:05 Head cleared

Great, right? Nope.

21:15 Head stuffy again